As you approach the end of your pregnancy -- and in some cases, pass your due date without delivering -- it's natural to want to induce labor. While there are many natural and herbal induction techniques you may have heard about -- red raspberry leaf tea among them -- few have any support in the scientific literature.
As you approach the end of your pregnancy, changes in your body prepare you to deliver the baby. For your baby to be born, the cervix needs to ripen. Cervical ripening involves softening, effacement or thinning, and dilation of the cervix, explain Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz in their book "You: Having A Baby." This process depends upon chemical signals that aren't completely understood, though they appear to be mediated by chemicals called prostaglandins. After the cervix becomes ripe, the uterus starts contracting, which expels the baby.
Red Raspberry Tea
While it doesn't affect cervical ripening, red raspberry tea supposedly increases the uterus' contractility and strength of uterine contractions. This is thought by some to shorten the duration of labor and improve the efficiency of uterine contractions, reducing labor discomfort. In a 2001 study published in the "Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health," M. Simpson and colleagues note evidence that red raspberry tea does shorten labor -- the pushing stage -- by a very small amount, but they do not report evidence of labor induction.
Generally speaking, though red raspberry tea isn't considered an effective agent for inducing labor, it's probably safe for use in late pregnancy, notes the Simpson study, which reported no adverse effects of tea use on pregnant women or their developing babies. Dr. E. Ernst, in a 2003 study published in the "British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology," however, recommends caution on the grounds that if the tea works, it might induce overly strong uterine contractions. Ernst recommends against using the tea during pregnancy.
Generally speaking, it's quite hard to induce labor outside of a medical setting. While there are medications and medical techniques that can induce labor quite predictably, herbal supplements, teas, and natural induction techniques don't have much support in the research. Furthermore, while it's natural to want to meet your baby as you approach the end of your pregnancy, remember that the last weeks of development are important to your baby's health, particularly with regard to lung and brain function. As such, you should always talk to your doctor before trying an induction technique.